‘Rustic chic’ in the South Downs - October 2020

MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
edited May 2019 in Your planning threads
Hi everybody,

So I've been engaged almost two months now and recently found this site while agonising over how to solve our setting a date dilemma (more on that later). I adore weddings and have been loving reading everyone's planning threads, so I thought that this afternoon — while recovering from our brilliant engagement party last night, and having just set our date — would be a great time to start my own :smile:


  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Our story

    January 2009 - I was 18 and had just finished my first term at university, having had a fair few flings and my first experience of heartbreak. I came home for the Christmas holidays having decided to take a complete break from men for a while, and a week before heading back up to uni had a night out in my home town to celebrate a friend's birthday. It was an Alice in Wonderland theme, and I was dressed as the Cheshire Cat, with a very fetching stripy 'tail' and whiskers painted on my face. I was a little drunk, having fun dancing with my girls and feeling great about myself - a rarity for me at that age. Halfway through the night, I spotted a guy across the packed dancefloor and just couldn't look away - he was tall, dark and SO handsome. Next thing I know, he and his friend are coming our way - his friend knew one of mine - and before I know it we're dancing together. After a while he leans in to kiss me and, remembering I'm 'off men', I turn my face away (sorry J!) He doesn't push it, but then I decide that actually this guy is just too damn goodlooking not to kiss, so I give in... We swap numbers at the end of the night and he texts me the next day, asking if I want to meet up.
    Being young and poor, we went to the cinema for Orange Wednesdays, and beforehand I was really worried that in the cold, sober light of day, I wouldn't fancy him at all. But luckily I did and when he held my hand during the film I was sold. We went on one more date a couple of days later but we were still very casual and after all, I was about to go back to uni 200 miles away (he was a couple of years older - it was actually his 21st birthday night out when we met - and he lived and worked in my home town). But we spoke every day, I came down for a weekend and we went on a date, and then he came up to visit me for a full weekend. In hindsight, planning to spend the whole weekend with someone who I really didn't know still (we'd never even spent the night together - he was a perfect gentleman) was a bit risky, but we just had the most magical weekend imaginable. It was February and snowy, and we spent the whole weekend talking and properly getting to know each other, as well as having lots of fun - even if we have never been able to agree on who won the snowball fight! Anyway, he drove back home on the Monday morning and I cried all day in my lectures. The following evening we were talking about our feelings for each other and I was just so nervous about the idea of embarking on a long distance relationship, but he told me he couldn't bear the idea of not giving it a ago, and officially asked me to be his girlfriend. And the rest is history....
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Despite falling for each other hard after that first weekend, the following 10 years had SO many ups and downs, and it hasn't been easy. We maintained our long distance relationship throughout my three years at uni, which was really, really hard for both of us. My father died during this time as well, and I struggled a lot - J was just wonderful though. Then after I graduated, I went off travelling for six months which I had planned since school and because he was working, J could only come out to spend two weeks of that with me. God knows how we managed to survive this - I'm an extremely sociable person and I know how hard it must have been for J knowing that I was on the other side of the world meeting all these new people - we almost broke up during this time but just couldn't bear to actually do it. After getting home, I then moved to London almost immediately to start my dream career and so we continued the long distance relationship, only this time without the luxury of long uni holidays! It was tough; both still being pretty poor we  could only afford to travel up and down the country to see each other every three weeks or so, and we really had to work on our trust and communication etc, with plenty of times when we thought we would just never be together. J is very much a small town country boy - all his family still live in his home town, whereas mine are all over the world - and i wanted nothing more than for him to move to London, but I knew I couldn't rush him into such a big decision. The day in 2015 he announced he was switching careers and moving up to London to live with me was one of the best of my life. We rented a flat and life was perfect. Two years later we managed to buy our own, even smaller flat, which we have been doing up from scratch all by ourselves, and our relationship has just gone from strength to strength - we've both changed so much over the years but we've just got closer and finally living together after 7 years apart just sealed the deal.
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    edited May 2019
    Gosh sorry for all this rambling!

    The engagement

    Having now been together for such a long time, everyone was asking whether we were going to get married. Truth is, the idea of marriage has always scared me a little, even though I knew shortly after we moved in together that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with J. He is THE most laid- back guy you'll ever meet - one of the many many ways we are very different - and again this was something that was not going to be rushed. I was totally fine about this - i love weddings but was quite happy to keep dreaming about our own - but when we booked to go for a long weekend skiing for our 10 year anniversary I thought this had to be it. We are both nuts about skiing, we were going back to one of favourite places and it would be perfect. We had the best weekend ever, but no proposal! I didn't mind, but thought that as he knew i wanted him to propose on a mountain, it would now not be until next year. We did actually have a second ski trip booked with a big group of friends a few weeks later though (we save almost all our money for skiing!) but getting engaged could not be further from my mind - i never thought he'd do it on a group trip. But then on our third day, in gorgeous sunshine, he suddenly became adamant that he wanted to ski a particular route down the mountain, away from the others. I told him not to be ridiculous, that it was our last run before meeting more friends for lunch and we should all stay together. But he insisted, so i gave in - and then invited our other friend to join us skiing this particular run. J must have been rolling his eyes, but the friend obviously got the hint as he sped away from us. Just after starting off down this red run, J pulled over to the side of the mountain and started fiddling with his goggles saying his contact lenses felt weird (happens a lot). I was telling him to hurry up because if he didn't I was going to ski away and meet him at the bottom, while taking a pic of the stunning viewing, then I turn around and he's holding a little box. I STILL don't twig what's going on though - I thought he had brought spare contact lenses in some strange box! And then he opened it, got down on one knee (not easy wearing skis!!) and asked me to marry him. It was funny, sweet, romantic and just so very us. I could not believe it - after all that, he had produced the proposal of my dreams and it had been a total surprise! Best of all, we got to ski down the mountain just the two of us, then meet all our friends at the bottom  - they had all known and had a magnum of champagne ready and waiting!

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    This is the stunning view we were facing when J proposed on the mountain, and the photo I took while he was getting the ring out of his ski jacket!

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    The ring

    So, our ring has definitely become a story in its own right. I'm not a very 'blingy' girl and a massive diamond isn't really my style. I prefer the timeless elegance of pearls, and had mentioned to my mum and friends a few times that I would love a pearl engagement ring. I never really thought J had ever clocked this, but it turned out that after he decided he was going to propose on our ski trip he trekked round every jeweller in our area to try to find a pearl ring. He couldn't find what he was after, which I suppose isn't surprising as pearls aren't a normal choice as they require a bit more care than a diamond (this didn't worry me though - I was quite happy with the idea of taking it off to shower, run, wash up etc)
    Anyway, he finally had to order one online, and although I did love it when he proposed — i just couldn't believe he had actually got me a pearl — it had been sent 1.5 sizes smaller than the size he actually ordered, and after speaking to lots of local jewellers it turned out we couldn't resize it by enough without destabilising the pearl and little diamonds on it. J had quite a bad experience with the online jeweller anyway, and when we found out - somewhat frustratingly - that my sister's friend was actually a jewellery maker, we decided to send the ring back for a refund and have a new one designed and made specially for us by her.
    To cut a long story short, J and the jeweller met to design the ring and she got to work. It was frustrating not having a ring for nearly eight weeks after we got engaged, but I switched a little one J bought me nine years ago to my left hand as a stand in. Yesterday, just hours before our engagement do, we finally got the ring and had a lovely little moment when J revealed it to me for the first time. It was beyond perfect - unique and elegant, and very me. And it fits!

  • Aww your story is so sweet! Beautiful ring too!
  • Oh how lovely!  I love that he proposed in the mountains, so beautiful and personal. 

    Orange wednesdays need to make a comeback! It was such a good deal 😂

    looking forward to reading your plans!
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Thank you! Writing out our story really does make me realise how far we've come!
    So on to some of our actual planning...

    We always knew we wanted a barn wedding - I already had a very clear 'vision' for the day, which was rustic and rural (but not too rural - no cows or straw bale seating), featuring lots of fairy light, wooden beams, exposed brick, candles, foliage, flowers etc. I've termed it rustic chic!
    My parents got married in a barn (their own!) back in the 80s before barn weddings were even really a thing, so apart from loving the idea anyway we thought it would be a lovely nod to that. The first big decision was where in the country we would do it though - we're both from Devon and all J's family are still there, but mine are all over the world, and our friends are mostly in and around London. We decided we wanted to keep it within about an hour's drive of our home and started looking at barns in Surrey. There are some really lovely ones, our favourites from online research being Gate Street Barn and the Barn at Bury Court, but my god were some of them pricey! We're very, very lucky that our parents are contributing towards our wedding, but we are still funding the majority ourselves and had to be realistic - 6k upwards for venue hire alone was just not feasible, sadly.
    We widened our search to include Bucks, Hampshire, East and West Sussex and even East Oxfordshire. By this point we had settled on a few non-negotiables: we wanted to supply our own alcohol during the day and more places than we expected didn't charge corkage, so that was our first one. We also felt quite strongly that we wanted the venue to have separate barns/rooms for the ceremony and the dinner, though ideally, we actually wanted to get married in a different location from the reception. I realise this is the opposite of what most people want, but I think it's because almost every wedding I've been to have been church weddings and we loved the idea of driving away from the ceremony in a classic car and arriving in style at the reception venue, having stopped off for a quick drink at a country pub on the way. I had also been really put off by the way the day flowed at the all-in-one weddings I had been to, and found it a bit claustrophobic. We also adore churches as buildings and although we're not religious we wanted a ceremony venue with a similar sort of atmosphere. We knew it would be hard to find 'ceremony-only' venues that weren't registry offices, but we actually did find a few: the Lovekyn Chapel just down the road from us in Kingston (too small for our numbers though), the Charterhouse near Goldalming (stunning but limited availability) and the Guildhall in Chichester - which was quickly becoming our area of choice. I fell in love with the Guildhall as soon as I saw it online and we booked in a visit, along with six other barn venues in East and West Sussex.

  • Cecilia13Cecilia13 Posts: 512 New bride
    I love your story and ring and can't wait to hear all your planning :) we are also having the ceremony away from our reception place (more out of necessity though as the reception is in my grandparents' garden!) And it was quite hard to find somewhere but we ended up with a nice town hall; not perfect but perfectly nice.
  • CoffeeDogAddictCoffeeDogAddict Posts: 1,341 New bride
    Love your story!!! So cute and what a gorgeous proposal and ring!  Cant wait to see your planning!
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    So the first venue we looked at was Fitzleroi barn in West Sussex. There was a lovely family farm vibe and the barn itself was very pretty with lots of wooden beams and a lovely balcony area. Our favourite aspect of it was the huge courtyard - we could really imagine all our friends there having a good time. However it’s only one barn and would involve everyone having to go outside or into a small side room for the drinks reception while it was turned around, which could be tricky as we will having an October wedding. It was also a little too far from the Chichester Guildhall to have our ceremony there.

    Fitzleroi did have the advantage of being the only place we looked at that guaranteed  you could come in the day before to decorate as they only hold two weddings a week, but sadly they were booked for the two Saturdays we wanted in October, due to my MOH being a teacher in Japan and having a very small window when she could be here. We hadn’t ruled out Thursdays, but it would have to be for the perfect place...
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Next we headed to Bartholomew barn nearby, which had appealed to us because of the choice it would give us with caterers etc. However, we were actually put off a little as the venue doesn’t really have a wedding coordinator and it seemed as though we would have to do an awful lot of the work ourselves. Plus, while we were there at 11am the caterer for that afternoons wedding hadn’t turned up and the owner was panicking, which made us realise just how much more capacity there can be for things to go wrong with outside caterers

    The barn itself was beautiful, atmospheric and cosy - and we loved the wood burner! But we felt that again there just wasn’t enough space, either outside or inside really as our daytime number of 90-100 is the max capacity for the venue. A great barn, but not for us.
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Next on the list was Cissbury barns near Worthing - a bit of a last minute find as they don’t seem to be a prominent online as other barns in the area. On paper, this venue ticked every box for us - two separate barns, long driveway, views, no corkage, choice of caterer etc etc. But for some reason, we just didn’t love it. The barns felt a little soulless, you have to enter from the side so no long aisle walk, and I was really put off by the coloured uplighting. The outside space was nice and it certainly had the best toilets of all the venues we visited, but although it’s hard to put our finger on why, it just didn’t feel very us - I couldn’t imagine getting married there, and we didn’t really click with the wedding coordinator who showed us round. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be other couple’s perfect venue - it just wasn’t ours. 

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    edited May 2019
    I hope all this venue analysis isn’t too boring by the way! Hopefully somebody will find it useful - I certainly would have a few weeks ago I reckon! 

    Anyway, the sole East Sussex venue that we looked at was Hendall Manor barn, again another late find that isn’t as prominent online. In all honesty, we considered cancelling this barn - it seems more of a dry hire option and we had been put off by that already. But we went and boy did it surprise us! For a start, the owner was absolutely lovely - one of my friends who got married last year had told us to how important it is to feel good about wedding venue coordinators and we definitely felt we could Nicola could help us produce a great wedding. Hendall was another single barn but was huge and split in half by steps. I loved the thought of a long aisle and descending those steps. It had a lovely terrace and lawn and the photo opportunities were fantastic. Best of all, there was accommodation - a bridal cottage and a fantastic house for the bridal party complete with games room and spiral staircase. We could really see our bridesmaids and groomsmen here. However it did have one major drawback for us - weddings had to end at 10.30pm. I totally get it as the owners live on site, but we felt strongly that we wanted our do to go on at least until 11.30. There was also a sound limiter which we were a little concerned about, and of course the fact that although it was large, it was just the one barn - if weather was bad we could have problems. Plus, although it was cheaper than other barns there were a lot more extra costs, for example, to have the ceremony there, and when all added up it meant it was about the same as others. So sadly, not for us.

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    We then headed to see the Guildhall in Chichester as a potential ceremony only venue and I totally fell in love. It was exactly the sort of ceremony place I wanted and never thought we’d find. It was grand and atmospheric and elegant and beautiful (especially once the flowers and aisle runner was in place) and I could really picture us getting married there. It was in a lovely park, in a very nice part of Chichester and had the most amazing pathway just perfect for confetti shots. The problem though, is that it would add an extra 1.5-2k onto our venue costs and we just weren’t sure if we could justify it...

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Just down the road from Chichester was Southend Barns, which were anazing! It’s an incredibly slick, polished venue with a stunning undercover outside seating area and really amazing huge barn. There is a seperate ceremony barn too (and lovely outside ceremony area but we disregarded this as it would be too risky in October). This other barn was very sweet but felt a touch cramped to me and, with the Guildhall very close, we imagined this as a reception only option. 
    We loved the people, there was a set caterer but they sounded fantastic, and the venue also supply lots of lovely things for free, like lanterns, blankets, a post box for cards etc. There was also a lovely bridal suite and we realised that being able to spend the night on site was something we wanted a lot more than we realised. Southend was a very strong contender!!

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    But then we arrived at Upwaltham Barns and were greeted by Tim, the owner, and we instantly felt at home. Of all the venue coordinators we met he was the only one who sat down with us right at the start and asked us what we wanted from our wedding. Upwaltham, quite honestly, was perfect. We stood in the beautiful little courtyard surrounded by flowers and could just imagine our dream wedding unfolding here. The ceremony barn was gorgeous and had a warmer feel to it than the Guildhall (important for October!), we loved the Stable bar with its wood burner and the outdoor heated snug. The reception barn was beautiful and exactly what I had had in mind. And it also had a bridal suite that we fell in love with. The caterers are Nibbles2Nosh and seemed brilliant and offer an awful lot in addition to the food, plus they would let us bring in a pizza van for the evening which was something we really wanted. All in all, this was the winner but - and there’s always a but - it wasn’t available for the Fridays or Saturdays that we needed! Suddenly we had a dilemma on our hands that the lovely people on this forum gave us some excellent advice on. 
    In the end we returned a couple of weeks later to look at Southend (which had a Friday available) and Upwaltham again. We loved Southend but their Friday price would be 2k more than a Thursday or Sunday at Upwaltham and that was without the Guildhall ceremony...
    When we arrived at Upwaltham a second time we realised we loved it even more than the first - it just felt so us. A different week was out of the question - I decided that I just couldn’t get married without my MOH - and so we booked it that same day for Thursday 8 October, 2020. I’m so excited!!!
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Kudos to anyone who has read this far!! The venue was a big priority for us and although we have compromised on day of the week we have the perfect venue, and I get to have my closest friend in the world by my side too :)

    Upwaltham - not my pic above (I was too dazzled by the place to take many pics!)

  • Upwaltham barns look incredible!! There’s a thread on here by @MrsTracey who got married here last year I think! And it looked amazing, might be worth having a read!
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Ah I think I did read it actually! :) Was amazing to hear the ins and outs of somebody’s day at the same venue - really useful! 
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    edited May 2019
    Our next step now is to send save the dates I think - we’re 18 months out but as our wedding is on a Thursday I think we need to give people as much notice as possible (and write the date out on them so it includes the day of the week - I feel as though if we just put 8.10.20 people won’t clock!) Luckily I have a friend at work who also does wedding stationery as a sideline. However my sister in law is also very creative and crafty and I think is just itching to do it for us. I’m thinking we ask her to do our save the dates (if she wants!) and ask my friend to do the actual invites as they are more complex (she’s said she’ll do it for the price of one Starbucks coffee a week for a month!) the only problem is that my sister in law and I have vastly different styles and I’m a little worried she’ll come up with a really wacky design I hate. So I’ve put together a Pinterest board of stationery to show her so she can see the type of thing I like.... Trying hard not to become bridezilla!!!

  • CoffeeDogAddictCoffeeDogAddict Posts: 1,341 New bride
    Nice i love the style you have going there! I second putting the day of the week on, were a sunday and didnt put the day of the week on, and as everyone got their save the dates through other family members all we got was "isnt that a sunday, do you mean saturday 4th?" *cue eyerolls*
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    Thanks @CoffeeDogAddict - that must have been so annoying, it's as though people think you don't check the date properly when you book a wedding! I'm still a bit nervous about it being on a Thursday, but luckily nearly all the really important friends and family don't seem fazed by it at all, which is great.
  • I definitely don’t think Thursday will be an an issue! One of my friends gets married this year on a Thursday and I think everyone is excited for a 4 day weekend!! Although my OH has definitely not twigged he needs to book time off work-even though I have said ITS A THURSDAY! 

    but i I think you’ll be absolutely fine!
  • MrsTraceyMrsTracey Posts: 837 New bride
    Upwaltham barns look incredible!! There’s a thread on here by @MrsTracey who got married here last year I think! And it looked amazing, might be worth having a read!
    Oooh thanks for the shout out! I did indeed get married here in July last year, still clinging to the past as i5 was just the most amazing day! MrsH - just shout if you have any questions that I might be able to give insight to! You’ll be well looked after here :smile:
  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    @MrsTracey thanks so much! I did find your thread and really enjoyed it. We had exactly the same reaction as you when we found Upwaltham - even though we looked at more venues after it, deep down we couldn't imagine getting married anywhere else :)

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    We have our save the dates! I did have to be quite tactful with my sister in law - the initial design was a bit OTT for me and every time I asked her to remove one thing she did but added something else. In the end they are very simple and not overly personal but I think the jute string is a nice touch and fitting with our rustic theme. 
    I spent half a day tying the damn things up and addressing envelopes but they’re all ready to send now which is so exciting! 
    We always keep all the save the dates we get sent on our fridge and it’s amazing now to have our own up there!

  • MrsH2020MrsH2020 Posts: 166 New bride
    The next thing we are looking into is a band, as the music is quite a big deal for us. We love soul, funk, motown, jazz etc and want to steer clear of most 'traditional' party/pop music in the evening - we've found plenty of bands that seem to fit the bill but either they are hugely expensive or we're just not convinced how good they are from the sample tracks and reviews online. J is a musician himself and until quite recently was in a fairly successful band so he's quite particular about the standard of music we have, and in particular the strength of the lead singer. We've enquired with a few agencies - Alive Network, Lemon Entertainment, Toast Functions and Function Central and I'm hoping to give them a call this week to talk over what we're after on the phone.  
  • We're having the same issue with the band, my fiancé really doesn't want to book one without hearing them play but the ones we've enquired about don't do gigs other than weddings! 

    I don't really know where to start with finding one we can listen to first.
  • Great story and such a beautiful venue! :)
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